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February 26, 2018

Angela Merkel's cabinet

There is something pre-democratic (or is it post-democratic?) about the German political discussion when commentators express satisfaction that Angela Merkel is organising her own succession. For starters, it's for parties to choose their leaders, not for leaders to choose their successors. And the notion of orderly succession has never worked for any German political party in the past, including and in particular the CDU. If this grand coalition comes about, it will be the last one for a long time because CDU/CSU and SPD together have lost their structural majority. In the future, different types of coalitions will bring up different types of leaders. The elevation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel loyalist, to the position of CDU general secretary is important, but so is that of Jens Spahn from the conservative wing of the party, who will become heath minister. Either of them, or somebody else, could be the next party leader. Merkel had to sacrifice some of her loyal minions to make room for Spahn. Spahn's appointment is merely a reflection of a power shift within the CDU. Markel must have concluded that it would be better to have her fiercest critic inside the cabinet than outside. 

The other important CDU-held ministry will be defence, which will stay with Ursula von der Leyen; and agriculture, which will go to Julia Klockner, Merkel's deputy. Peter Altmaier becomes economics minister, and the relatively unknown Anja Karliczek becomes education minister. Several existing CDU ministers will leave, including the interior minister Thomas de Maiziere, who was once also seen as a strong contender for the throne. 

The final decision about the composition of Merkel's cabinet rests not with Merkel but with SPD members, who have until the end of this week to vote for or against the grand coalition itself. The result is due out on Sunday.

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